The confidant by Helene Gremillon plus Helene’s favourite books

The confidant by Helene Gremillon

French Fiction

Translator – Alison Anderson

Source review copy

Helene Gremillon is a French writer born in the late seventies  ,she studied both literature and history at university ,she then worked for le Figaro the French newspaper .This was her debut novel ,she is now a full-time writer ,she lives in Paris with the well-known French singer Julien Clerc.

I got a letter one day ,a long letter that wasn’t signed .This was quite an event ,because I’ve never received much mail in my life .My letter box had never done anything more than inform me that the sea-was -warm or that the-snow-was-good ,So I didn’t open it very often maybe once a week.When I hoped a letter would change my life completely …

the opening of the book and how it does for Camille .

So the confidant has two timelines in 1975 we see Camille ,who has just dealt with her mother dying .When she happens on some letter among the effects for the funeral .These letters make up the second time line coming from France the dark clouds of the second world war are in the background of this letter ,but this letter is not sign so it draws Camille in to who was this person sending this letter to her .but then the following week another letter arrives on a Tuesday and then every Tuesday Camille gets more info from the past  ,we start to find a love story in pre war and then world war two France Louis and Anne story of love comes to Camille across time .But then they are separated by war and we see Anne,she meets a baron and this innocent young women is drawn into a world or jealousy and revenge ..Also a child that Anne had  to help a childless couple during the war .Meanwhile part of this story starts to ring bells with Camille back in 1975 .

Dear Camille

With those words in my heart in my throat .Oddly it was at that moment I knew I was Louis .I unwrapped the brown paper.Inside was an exercise book .I opened it

Louis handwriting ,as always ,more cramped and more vigorous ,but this time ,writing someone else’s words

One of the notes Camille’s gets later in the book .

This novel may appear to be on the surface similar to other books over the last couple of years I mean the dual storyline in  different times has appeared in a couple of books over the last few years .I review the tiger wife which in some ways have similar sort of feel to this book  as it is about secrets , families and love .It is also easy to compare to various books in recent times that have been runaway success that have involved the second world war ,books such as suit Francaise ,the reader and alone in berlin books that open the personnel lives at war .But  in a large way this is a French book at its heart complex and deeper than it appears on the surface .It’s about secrets and what people will do to cover the truth up ,also about love between two people .Motherhood is another theme in this book ,also the modern question of surrogate motherhood ,which we see as a modern question is really an age-old question .I found this a complex but rewarding read that shows the best of French fiction also a wonderful twist on the Epistolary form of novel as half the book is made up of letters  .I was going to be doing an interview with Helene but with recent events I didn’t get time but she has kindly told me her six favourite books .which are below -

Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen
A love story to enchant the romantic at heart.

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson
The last very good thriller I read.

Medea by Jean Anouilh
A text of stunning beauty which revisits what is for me one of greatest ancient myths.

An Anthology of French Poetry, which is always good to lose oneself in…

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The loss and despair of an extremely brilliant little boy, who lost his father in the 9/11 attacks. For me, completely original writing.

The Notebook by Agota Kristof
A trilogy about the lives of two twins, a short, effective and sharp story. Poetic and despairing.

Many thanks for Helene for sharing her favourite books .I will be try the Cohen at some point .This is part of a blog tour for Gallic books this week

Monday was Davids post

Tuesday was Novelicous which had Helene writing room pictured

today well its me lol

Thursday tomorrow is cornflower books .

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Caroline
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 12:29:25

    I just bought the French version a when I saw it at a book shop a couple of weesk ago. i thought it sounded intriguing which your review confirms. Maybe a choice for my readalong next year. The dual story lines are sometimes tiring, I’m glad that’s not the case here.
    I have Belle du Seigneur on my TBR but it’s such a long book. I think it must be outstanding.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Book Review: The Confidant by Hélène Grémillon | Ragdoll Books Blog
  3. Leah
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 21:06:46

    Ooh, The Confidant sounds fascinating! Nice review :)

    Reply

  4. Richard
    Oct 25, 2012 @ 03:13:12

    The cover of this book makes me think it’s being pitched to a reader with a different type of taste than me, but I’m happy to hear that you liked it so much since your positive opinion and the epistolary format might encourage me to read the French version someday. Of course, let’s be real, I will have to read some more Marguerite Duras and Proust and Robbe-Grillet first before I consider making time for this one! :D

    Reply

    • Caroline
      Oct 25, 2012 @ 10:50:51

      Richard, file the cover under “how to murder a book with bad marketing”… The French cover is sober, the paperback somewhat less but there is no “we love the 40s for their tragic lovestory appeal – vibe”.

      Reply

  5. Chinoiseries
    Oct 25, 2012 @ 15:27:05

    I think the story sounds appealing, have heard about it somewhere, I think. Will probably try to get hold of the original French edition sometime. How lovely that she told you about her favourite books :)

    Reply

  6. Sarah
    Oct 28, 2012 @ 12:23:14

    I’ve seen this book advertised but wasn’t sure about it. I’m still not but I enjoyed your review!

    Reply

  7. Trackback: A tale of motherhood across generations… | Annabel's House of Books

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